MGMA 2009: Catching up on tech issues, or 'ouch, my EMR!'

As you doubtless know, there's no way you're going to walk out of this year's conference--or any event, for that matter--knowing everything you need to know about EMR selection. But if you can, take the chance to get sharper on health IT issues generally, and EMRs in particular at this year's gathering. After all, don't forget that you're in the sights of every health IT vendor with the slightest claim to stimulus funds, and you bet they'll be going after you to get it.

Of course, I hardly need to remind you that EMR vendors, big and small, will be in attendance in the exhibit hall, including big players like McKesson (Booth # 717), GE Healthcare (Booth #1217)  and NextGen (Booth #1533), plus emerging players with a combined practice management/EMR solution such as eClinicalWorks (Booth #2023). The larger vendors put on a big, distracting show, and hand out lots of silly free toys, but their talks are still worth a look. You may also want to get a gander at revenue cycle management tools and services--in short, your money, faster--and e-prescribing technologies.

But if all this makes your head spin--and it probably will--there are plenty of sessions available to offer some higher-level perspective. One story that's probably worth a listen will be told by Lee Sacks, EVP and chief medical officer with Advocate Health Care, and colleague Mark Shields, Advocate VP of medical management. At their session, "How an Independent Practice Will Survive and Thrive: Clinical Integration," (CON 408, Oct. 12, 10:15 a.m. - 11:30 a. m., room 702/706) they'll discuss how payers have funded their clinically-integrated system for 2,100 independent doctors and 800 physician-employees. (They'll also discuss how it works financially, a real plus.)

Another potential eye-opener is a session focused on the EMR incentives offered under the HITECH Act ("HITECH Action Plan: EHR Incentive Payments and Practice Implementation Issues," Oct. 13, 10:15 a.m. - 11:30 a.m., room 705/711). Get advice from MGMA Healthcare Consulting Group's Rosemarie Nelson, and attorney David Schoolcraft of Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC, on how to select EMRs, follow a smart contracting process and implement the system to realize full benefits of the new law.

If you do some of this research, you may not be an EMR expert, but you could feel confident enough to get started on your high-tech plans. This is a great opportunity to get your feet wet.